State of the Communities Movement with Cassandra, Sky and Yana
Inside Community Podcast — Ep. 014
Join communities experts Yana Ludwig, Sky Blue, and Cassandra Ferrera for a panel discussion on the state of the communities movement.
In this episode
- Where are communities (as a movement) making progress? (12 minutes)
- Are we trying to tackle too many issues at once? (23 minutes)
- How can we be part of something that’s full of contradictions? (35 minutes)
- Have we affected a global revolution yet? (47 minutes)
- How do we normalise the need for elder wisdom for support? (59 minutes)
- What would a governing body for communities look like? (1 hour 5 minutes)
- What are intentional communities about? (1 hour 18 minutes)
About Yana, Sky and Cassandra
Yana Ludwig is a cooperative culture pioneer, intentional communities advocate, and anti-oppression activist. She serves on the FIC board, is the author of several books, and is a trainer and consultant for communities, worker owned cooperatives and nonprofits.
See: Yana Ludwig Training and Consulting
Sky Blue (they / them pronouns) has spent 22 years living, working, and organizing in intentional communities, cooperatives, and community organizations. They serve on the FIC board, and work as a community consultant as part of The Next Big Step.
Cassandra Ferrera’s real estate career and community activism has focused on the edge of cultural innovation where cooperation meets land stewardship. She is currently co-founding The Center for Ethical Land Transition, a non-profit organization that supports solidarity and justice in land transitions.
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Thanks from Rebecca, your podcast host
Rebecca Mesritz 0:06
Hello, and welcome back to the inside community podcast. I’m your host, Rebecca Mesritz. Well, I cannot believe that we have made it to the end of the first season of the inside community podcast. And I think we’ve covered a lot of ground. I’ve really tried in this season to lay a bit of a foundational framework for what intentional community is, how it works, and really give some basics of collaborative culture to support you and your journey wherever it is that you are. Whether this is the first time that you’re thinking about community, or you’re a seasoned communitarian. For this final episode, however, I’m doing something just a little bit different. Today we are going to do more of a panel discussion. You might remember my guest sky blue. From episode eight, they came on to talk to me about income sharing and innovating economy. While they reached out to me with an idea to capture a conversation they’ve been active in with fellow community experts, Cassandra Ferreira, and Jana Ludwig, who was my guest for Episode Four on finding co founders. These three are friends, and they’ve all been connected to the board of the foundation for intentional community. And they’re all really passionate advocates for community and what it has the potential of being. And so their idea was to really have a conversation about the state of the communities movement. I found this conversation extremely inspiring, and I hope that you will too, it really pushes into a little bit more of what I would like to call advanced community theory as it begins to explore some of the hopes and the dreams and the challenges facing communities both individually and as a larger movement. So I think there’s a lot of really great takeaways in here that hopefully will inspire your journey and your growth edge as well. Today’s guests are sky blue, sky blue, spent 22 years living, working, and organizing and intentional communities, cooperatives and community organizations. They are currently working with a group of people to start a new community and work as a community consultant as part of the next big step. They take a whole system’s approach to helping groups uncover and address underlying issues and dynamics, develop shared understanding, and find ways to move forward together. Jana Ludwig is a cooperative culture pioneer intentional communities advocate and anti oppression activist. She serves on the foundation for intentional community board and as a trainer and consultant for communities, worker owned cooperatives and nonprofits. She is the author of together resilient building community in the age of climate disruption, the OP the cooperative culture handbook with Karen Gim neg and the soon to be released building belonging Your Guide to starting a land based intentional community. And new to the show today we have Cassandra Ferreira. Cassandra is dynamic real estate career and community activism has focused on the edge of cultural innovation where cooperation meets land stewardship, she has provided agency complex contract design, consulting, and Cooperative Governance support to dozens of communities and land projects. A licensed real estate agent in California since 2003. Cassandra’s license is with the progressive Green Key real estate brokerage in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is currently co founding the Center for Ethical land transition, a nonprofit organization that supports solidarity and justice, inland transitions. So we’re just going to jump right into this conversation. And the first voice that you’re gonna hear is that of Cassandra Ferreira, and she just had such a beautiful share an opening to our conversation. I wanted to share it with you. And I hope it warms your heart as it does mine.
Cassandra Ferrara 4:12
Yeah, I guess I would just name that Jana and Skye and I have been like, we love to talk with each other like we’re and and this is the first time that we’ve pressed record. And so I just kind of want to invoke the magic that just happens naturally. When we when we’re not like doing it for a podcast you know, just to be be friends who are just so sleeves rolled up in this together and have been for so many years and love each other deeply and respect each other and yeah, so I just I love you both so much. Yeah, but it’s just so fun and delightful to get to be. Yeah, just to get to be in it together and then have hopefully something thoughtful and meaningful to say that might help others. So great. Yeah. Nice. sames. Yeah.
Rebecca Mesritz 5:21
Well, here’s to that. I love that. I love that. Thank you so much, Cassandra, for bringing that in. You know, I was going to ask you each in a way of sort of introducing yourselves to talk about what piece of the community world community reality you feel like, you’re really holding, nurturing, guiding. So maybe we can start there. Cassandra, why don’t you start, you already kind of got the ball rolling, seem warmed up.
Cassandra Ferrara 5:53
Sure, I while I’ve been deep in the practice of just living it for the last 16 years, I’ve also been really focused on the land, part of the process, and then like a place based nature of community. And I’ve been a real estate agent, not so much because I thought buying and selling real estate was a really good idea. But because I was guided into, into a place where I could help understand what was so distasteful, the way that our dominant culture deals with land. And so I wanted to get in there and, and understand why more people didn’t have access to land and why it was so privatized, so that I could serve the corporatization of land. And so it’s really been a lot. I you know, getting into that space means that I touched so many aspects of it, but it’s, it’s, I feel like it’s really about that primary partnership with place and how man shapes us as human beings, and and kind of where we are in a larger cultural moment in restoring a healthy relationship. That’s
Rebecca Mesritz 7:23
beautiful. Sky you want to go next?
Sky Blue 7:29
Sure, um, I mean, I’ve been in the intentional communities movement, you know, for for over 20 years now. And, you know, I certainly have this, I think, also interesting perspective, given that my parents were in it, and then my parents met in it. And so, you know, I definitely am sort of a second generation, intentional communities person. And, but these days, the sort of the different perspectives that I think I’m bringing, are that I am working with a group of people to try to start a new, intentional community. And I have been on that journey to some degree in the past, but kind of being in it again, and being in an in a little bit more serious of a way than I think I’ve been in the past. You know, it’s a very particular perspective, you know, that I’ve been to have on the intentional communities movement when, when trying to start watering. Yeah, and just being in conversation and in touch with a lot of different people who are trying to start community. And so there’s definitely some some particular perspectives there. And then the other thing, which, you know, I think Jana and Cass have been in much more in the past, and I have is I’ve started doing more consulting with, with communities, and again, this sort of, there’s a particular perspective that that gives, as well. And, you know, and I think the consulting that I have kind of gotten into that I enjoy the most is, is when groups really let me look under the hood in a really deep way, which is where I think I work best. And so being able to have sort of the honor of of being able to the in the trust that groups have been giving me of being able to just really see them deeply and, and reflect what I can. What that gives for me, what I’m able to give to them is is is also just a really powerful perspective. Jana.
Yana Ludwig 9:30
Yeah, I think that if I had to pick a niche, and I resist picking niches, but if I had to pick a niche, I would say it would definitely be a cooperative culture and my work on that came out of initially living in community starting like 26 years ago and and then starting to work with groups professionally about 10 years later and just noticing all the different ways that we are dealing with sort of competing cultural paradigms and community where people bring in a lot of different things into community, and then we try to do something cooperative. And you know, what happens? And what are the patterns in sort of those meltdowns that happen. And increasingly, I’ve been combining that work with a power analysis that is about anti oppression work, and particularly focused on racism and classism in community. And really, so seeing the ways that community is kind of a microcosm of much bigger, you know, cultural shift that I think we’re in the midst of, and that there’s varying degrees of resistance to both within the communities movement and outside of that movement. And, and really, you know, trying to do this dance between being the individual that I am, who is, you know, a white woman, cisgender, queer, and, you know, working class, and like, what does that mean? And, you know, what are the systems that I’m sort of actively in touch with that I can be a leverage point, either because I’m in a power position, or because I’m not in a power position at different times. And I think the interplay of all of that stuff, is the thing that probably interests me the most in community work, and, you know, and being able to, like, learn from people like Cassandra that like, well, what does that mean for land? And, you know, like, thinking about, like, all three of us have in common that we’ve raised kids in community, and like, what does that mean, as a parent? Like there’s, there’s 1000 ways that you can ask, what does that mean for, and it’s all really fascinating and interesting to me, particularly when you add the anti oppression part into it.
Rebecca Mesritz 11:40
While you are each holding such crucial keys, it seems to, to the sort of overview of what community is. And I know, you’ve all done a lot of work in these areas. And I, you know, I want to start this, obviously, this podcast, this episode is really sort of a State of the Union, if you will, a state of the communities movement. And from your vantage points, where do you see communities, the capital, see succeeding? You know, where, where are we strong? Where are we thriving? Where are we making headway and actually making progress?
Yana Ludwig 12:35
I love that we’re all quiet, we’re like, thing that we have in common, that we’re really in touch with some of the more problematic things about the movement. And so when you say, like, where are we succeeding? And where are we thriving? I’m like, you know, I think that community changes your consciousness. I mean, I think that that is a just a core belief about it. And the deeper you get into that kind of changing your consciousness thing, the more you see all the ways that we still need to change. So I think we should be crediting the movement with like, you know, there’s been, I think, a lot of growth that like individuals have had, and then we’ve gone back in, and we’ve learned how to do community better and more cooperative and resolve conflicts better, and all that kind of stuff. And I think the most honest of practitioners and thinkers in the movement also are more and more aware of the ways that it’s, it’s just an incredibly problematic space that we’re operating in. So my guess is that was like, at least part of that, like a, that we all just did when you ask that question.
Sky Blue 13:44
Well, yeah, I think I, I feel like, you know, the three of us are all people who like we, we deeply care about this stuff. And, and we believe in it in a very deep way. And we see the potential of it, and we very much one intentional communities to be able to manifest their full potential to impact the world that we see is possible. And so of course, to some degree, we are going to be more focused on the problems because we want to figure those out. We want to solve those we want to we want to get the barriers out of the way. But so I do really appreciate though, that you’re asking like where are we? Where are we doing? Well, because I think it’s a good it’s a good thing to stretch into that and really and acknowledge it because we have to be able to see the barriers and deal with them if we want to move forward. But we have to recognize where we’re doing well, as well. And, and I think kind of like what Jana was saying with the microcosm thing, I think, I think part of the challenge of seeing what is being done well is that so much of what intentional communities about is dealing with the problems of society, like we’re taking all this this crap that we’ve got from society, we’re trying to figure out different ways of dealing with it and being with it. And so of course, it’s going to be messy. And of course, we’re not really going to know what we’re going to do. And of course, it’s challenging, it’s going to look bad at times. But I think one of the things that, that the perspectives that’s important is that, you know, you know, even if, you know, we’re like, I think stuff around sharing, you know, the importance of sharing and sharing resources, sharing lives, and what that means, in all sorts of different aspects, you know, Cooperative Governance, like Jana said, you know, conflict resolution stuff, even suffering, you know, oppression, injustice, accessibility, equity, that sort of thing, like, you know, there’s a way in which you can look at it all in different communities and be like, well, we’re not necessarily doing that. Well. Like, we haven’t figured it all out, but like, on some of us like, well, that’s not really the point, we’re never gonna figure it all out. And, and part of what I think is good about all of this is that we are at least trying to deal with things, we are at least willing to touch conversations that most people in most places are just not even willing to go there.
Rebecca Mesritz 16:01
I mean, I absolutely. I think, you know, part of the reason I want to start there is, you know, I know that there’s a lot of challenges, and we’re definitely going to we’re going to get into to those things. But I’m also aware, you know, when we first when he first reached out to me sky with this question of, you know, Where where are things and this desire to sort of share this conversation with people? One of the things that came up is how can we continue to garner interest in this movement and, and really spread this message out? And so I feel like, in some ways, it’s kind of a branding thing, like, what, you know, how do we attract people to this lifestyle and this way of being? If we only talk about, well, we could do this better, we could do this better, we could do this better was like, Well, no, but if you want to live in this way, and this way, and this way, and rock, you know, rock it out in permaculture rock out in egalitarian values and these kinds of things, communities is the place to do that. So that’s kind of where I want to like, I like to highlight that too, because I think it’s so important that people know, that actually communities is a wonderful place for x, y, z, and also a, b, and c, and then all the stuff in between, yeah, we’re still we’re working on we’re working on,
Sky Blue 17:28
I actually kind of want to want to get something from Cassandra potentially, particularly around land. And I think one of the things that is happening that is good in the intentional communities movement is the shift in relationship to land, particularly in terms of the shift from seeing ourselves as owning property to seeing ourselves as belonging to land. And I want to, I want to get Cassandra to just say more about that, if she wants to,
Cassandra Ferrara 18:02
I appreciate that sky, I do feel like strides are being made in the, in the collective mind around cooperative stewardship, to what it means to, to live in, into land. So not just live on land, but live in and as land, listen to the land. Be curious about what our relationship and responsibility is to the original stewards of the land. And to into dream ourselves into new legal structures that we really need. I think there’s innovation that is happening through the privilege of cooperative stewardship, by folks who can put themselves to that work, to help deeply think, feel, listen, be guided by the land and in, in innovate, iterate, how it is that our legal agreements reflect what it is our cultural values are, are, what’s emerging in that cultural space. And then yeah, and like like the, my, my two friends here, I and I think this goes to something that we were trying to speak to around like the movement is, you know, why are we doing this? Are we are we doing this? Are we changing our relationship with land, just for ourselves, so that we can raise kids and live in our, you know, happy little neighborhoods and do all do some good ecological and cooperative work, or is this a movement that is something that that serve So on, like a social movement sense. And in that sense it needs to all this work that we’re doing needs to not just be this these cool experiments that we’re doing for us. It needs we need to find a way to, to have this the more relevant to the larger movement of equity and systems change. So I think it’s, you know, and I think that will be an interesting thing for us to talk about is is this movement a movement? Are we causing systems change and how?
Yana Ludwig 20:36
Yeah, I can take on another piece of that with the with the innovation piece, I think there’s two things that have been really impactful for me personally, and has affected like all of my work, not just within the movement, but you know, I work in the nonprofit sector. And I think there’s ways that those influences show up there as well. And you know, one of them is on the ecological front where, you know, and it’s a little bit hard to talk about the movement as a whole, because it’s so diverse, and the motivations, that kind of stuff that Cass was just talking about, vary really widely. But there are groups like dancing rabbit ecovillage, like Twin Oaks, and like the boulder Co Op scene that have been studied, and where we’re actually seeing really significant reductions in ecological footprints and carbon footprints in those communities. And, you know, while dancing rabbit deliberately set out to do that, that wasn’t necessarily the point of some of those other communities. And yet, just cooperating and sharing and doing things collectively, you know, leads to a really significant reduction in resource use. And so I think there’s that piece that I think is pioneering things that could be much more widely applied at a time when like, we really need to be thinking about that. And I think there’s ways that it can also suggest things for like, we could be making legal changes to make it easier to do a bunch of this stuff, where things are really hard right now. So there’s that part. The other part is, you know, the first big shift that I had was living in an income sharing community 26 years ago, and really getting how, when an hour of labor and someone’s life, energy is valued equally with anybody else’s hour of labor and life energy, that it has some pretty remarkable effects on gender relationships, actually, like how much like I got how much, you know, economic structures can affect gender relationships, from that early experience. And I think that suggests a lot of things. And you know, at that time, you know, socialism was still a really dirty word in almost every political sphere. And that’s changed now. And I think we know some things about patterns of how you can structure society based on what’s been happening in some of those communities that I think can offer some really interesting models. And so for me, there’s that what’s the export potential of some of the things that are happening in the communities movement that are actually really exciting. And people, you know, it’s not just that potential, but it’s also like, there’s like hundreds and 1000s of people around the country who are actually living into a different reality right now, economically, in terms of our land relationships, and in terms of our ecological footprints that are really concrete, and allow us to sort of become different people in the process. And I think that is really exciting, that is really relevant. And there’s a whole swath of the communities movement, who could give a rat’s ass about all that stuff, too. And I think we have to be real about like, there are different bubbles within the movement that are doing a different pieces of that work and be are doing that work with, you know, greater and lesser degrees of seriousness and intentionality. But the groups that are doing it seriously and with intent are the groups that are really the most interesting to me.
Rebecca Mesritz 23:55
Yeah, I think this this kind of touches on something that I’m really curious about in this conversation, which is that there are there are a lot of issues that the communities movement is trying to tackle. And I mean, obviously on my podcast, I’ve talked to people about lots of different facets of community. But we haven’t even started to dive into some of some of these, like more kind of topical, I mean, we’re definitely topical but more issues based, as opposed to facets of community so we can talk about governance or we can talk about legal structure, we can talk about land ownership, but we haven’t necessarily dove into class and privilege. We haven’t dealt with gender equity and some of these other things that seem really at the forefront of what a lot of what you’re saying right now, Jana around the issues that we could be dealing with. And I guess what my Curie paucity is, is around, you know, is it too much? Really? Are we is it trying to are we diffuse in our energy? It? Should we just try and tackle one thing and do one thing, right? Or is it cool and good and beneficial for us to be trying to take on all of these different issues simultaneously? Is it overwhelming for people who are trying to start new communities are people who are trying to get a new community off the ground and just figuring out how to live peacefully together? Overwhelmed by the fact that okay, not only do we need to try and figure that out, but now we’re trying to answer all of these other really complex social issues. And I would just love to hear your thoughts on on those questions.
Sky Blue 25:50
I think one of the things that that comes up for me around that is that is an intentional communities, an intentional community as a model is sort of its inherently integrated, like it’s inherently trying to integrate lots of different aspects of life. And, and I think, I think the degree to which we in our society, understand the ways things are integrated, has continued to sort of evolve over time. So, you know, 40 years ago, 50 years ago, you know, in some circles, certainly, but in a more broader sense, like the connections between kind of economics and racism and climate and all these sort of things were not as sort of widely understood, as I think they are. Now again, I’m I don’t want to discredit people in different eras, who very much were on that page and touting that, but like, as a society as a whole, I think we’re getting that in a deeper way at this point. And so I think part of the question then is, okay, well, you know, the way I say it is that, you know, intentional communities have always been this sort of iterative process of responding to the problems of society. And that has evolved over the last 80 years, since there were things that were calling themselves intentional communities, in different ways. And so what moment are we in now? What, what moment of time with the problems we’re facing? And, and the, and the sort of the severity of it and the integrated nature of those problems? And our recognition of that? How do we design that in to our communities so that it’s not like, we’re trying to do this, and we’re trying to do this, and we’re trying to do this, but we’re, what we’re really trying to get at, like, what are those sort of underlying systemic, fundamental sorts of things that we can be designing around, that can affect all of it? And like, so, for example, you know, one of the things that I think I’ve been advocating for a while, particularly in regards to this sort of upsurge in in communities, desires to address race, is that, you know, there’s the race, but there’s a whole variety of different forms of oppression and vectors of diversity. And, you know, and any group no matter how modulus they might seem, there’s still going to be some amount of diversity that’s there. And one of the pitfalls I think I see groups getting into is like, how do we deal with racism? And I’m kind of like, why don’t you just start with the diversity that you have, like, whatever is there like foster your ability to embrace that and make space for that? And, and, and then go from there. And part of that, I think, has a lot to do with, like, are you able to change? And are you able to have conversations? Are you able to be open? And and talk about things? Are you able to do the kind of cultural change work on some fundamental level that Jana is talking about? Because then that can apply to all sorts of different things. So looking for, like, what are those sorts of underlying things that we can be, be, you know, the underlying design principles that we can be finding that can help address all of it?
Yana Ludwig 28:54
Yeah, Sky and it makes me think of the like, I talk a lot about the early and often principle with conflict resolution that I think sometimes groups think about conflict resolution, or anti oppression work as being like, Okay, we’re gonna address the really big, sticky, most terrible things. And the reality is that little tensions are happening all the time. And whether that’s through an oppression lens, or just an interpersonal conflict lens, and, you know, getting getting groups used to like practice, when it’s small practice the first time somebody like irritates the hell out of you in a meeting, or doesn’t micro aggression and like, get used to naming these sticky things, because part of what you’re doing collectively is building some muscle so that when those big things do happen, and when you get to a point of like, Okay, now let’s actually start thinking about like systemic oppression and like how we restructure things so that it you know, we’re not participating in those systems anymore. You actually have a sense of like, well, how do we talk about stuff that is really uncomfortable to talk about and where people are going to have defensiveness come up and whatnot. And so, you know, I think there are or think that that microcosm macrocosm thing also, you know, applies to like, you know, dealing with things when they show up in those small ways. And I think that’s some of the practical advice. And I also think it helps to have a power analysis and to have some kind of an oppression analysis that you, you’re trying to put it inside a framework so that it’s not just this overwhelming sea of things, but it’s like, oh, so here’s these patterns. And I think it can be easier. And a lot of groups, I think, are really reluctant to do that kind of power analysis work. But I think it’s increasingly important that they have a sense of like, how do we fit into the world in terms of power structures? And where are we resisting and where can we not yet resist, because we’re still participating in those things.
Cassandra Ferrara 30:43
And I think that people get into community, thinking that they’re going to transcend certain elements of the culture that they’re wishing to depart or create an alternative from, and then not realizing or being humbled to the extent to which they’re still embodying internalized power dynamics that are coming from the, the dominant cultural paradigm, and then I think that’s really where it gets tricky, because you have people who think that they’re doing something better or beyond or creative or aspirational. And, and, and then not knowing how to do the work of examining their unexamined shadow that they’re bringing into, into the community. And I don’t think there’s any way in it, that we’re not doing some degree of the world’s work. At home, when we’re in when we when we design a, you know, a substructure of, of it, and we put ourselves into cooperative self governance, like it’s going to come up the, the, the work is there. And, and I think how we go about, like, one of our biggest challenges is the idealism. And that comes with intentional community. And the ideal isn’t that we’re going to create something that is going to be so much better and so different, and so awesome. And, and then, and then the reality, the humility of, oh my gosh, I’m repeating internalized colonial patterns, like, right here. And it’s, it’s so humbling. And so I feel like if we were to approach the the work of living in a land based community with an attitude of, oh, I am going to get my ass kicked, I am going to become Initiated in ways that I can’t even see it, then then we might actually have a greater chance of being, quote, successful out at our endeavor. And so I think that’s a that’s one. That’s one piece is like, where we’re what we expect, and then the reality of it.
Yana Ludwig 33:13
Yeah, I think there’s like some built in humility, if you’re willing to embrace it of like, you know, how do you like practice anti colonial colonialism, on stolen land in a movement that is fundamentally land based. And if you just like, sit with that as a meditation for a little while, it will become obvious that like, so we are just a walking contradiction, basically, as a movement, and I think there’s, you know, those of us in the movement, who are caring about those topics, and are starting to unpack it, I think it’s, I think that’s a really big slice of humble pie. And I think, like, accepting that and not letting it stop you from being active in the world and stop you from trying to change things and still create something better. I think, you know, I think you’re sort of I think, if you really embrace that work, you’re setting yourself up for a lifetime of like, weird discomfort and constantly bumping into layers of it and going like, oh, there it is, again. And there is again, you know, over and over again.
Sky Blue 34:13
Yeah, I mean, one of the one of the key sort of, like, challenges that I feel like I’ve been like, thinking into a lot lately is around our relationship to institutions and the the kind of the way in which we are in cultivated in our relationships, socialized by mainstream institutions, and basically, none of it is good. Like, you know, 19 institutions are teaching just a whole array of dysfunctional relationships. Either you’re learning how to be the authority in that system, you’re learning just how to sort of like, try to navigate and get around, you’re, you’re being disempowered or even victimized, you know, by institutions. And so, so and so then we’re all bringing that what we’ve learned from that into the These institutions of community that we’ve, we’ve created. And and then, and I think a lot of times don’t realize how we’re then playing those those out. I yeah, I mean, and I think I think part of this is like there is this sort of central thing that like, you know, mainstream doesn’t teach us how to live in community, and it has sort of robbed us of, of, of our sense of community and our ability to live in community. And so it’s this, it’s it, which then makes living in community really hard. And, and so it is this sort of interesting, like, like Jana said, we’re sort of these walking contradictions and paradoxes, where it’s like, the exact thing that is driving us to want to find community is the thing that then makes it really hard to live in community once we get there. And I think ultimately, you know, part of this is like, relearning how to be part of something, you know, relearning how to not, you know, be the authority in or the victim of or whatever, but like, really, actually be part of something? What does that mean? And being able to come together and actually talk about these things and work through them together?
Rebecca Mesritz 36:14
Yeah, one of the things that I’m hearing in this, you know, what a question that comes up for me as well, what is what does success look like? What does it feel like? And one of the answers that I’m hearing in what you’re sharing is that there’s a level of success is uncomfortable, you know, that there’s a, there’s an aspect of
doing a good job, whatever that might mean, as communitarians at least in this current era, where we’re moving out of my God, I hope we’re moving out of a lot of toxic paradigms, and hopefully moving towards something else. But in order to do that, you know, we’re still swimming in the same water. Like we can’t quite shake off the shackles of 1000s of years of oppressive dynamics. And so we’re doing the best we can. And what that means is just being okay with being uncomfortable, and looking at things that are going to make us feel a little squeamish sometimes and call our own motivations and our own actions into question. Yeah, there’s something really, I don’t know. It’s like, how do you make that appealing for people like, okay, when we’re doing a great job, everybody’s gonna feel weird.
Yana Ludwig 37:54
Yeah, I think this goes back to something that has was saying a few minutes ago. For me, it’s like, it’s, um, what’s your motivation, like, if you’re coming in it to feel good. I don’t think that’s actually a motivation that’s going to last I think that that is going to evaporate very quickly, if you’re coming into it, because you want the word founder next to your name on your resume, that is not going to cut it. I mean, you have to be doing it. Because you care deeply about the state of the world. And you’re going to find your satisfaction and things that aren’t about success, but they’re about belonging. And you know, that they’re about, like, getting to the place of enough humility, that when you discover that the thing that you’ve created is actually toxic, you can let it go and learn from that rather than doubling down on it. And so like, the word success actually throws me for a little bit of a loop. I’m like, I don’t even know what that word means anymore. Like I feel. I feel like it’s the wrong box to be trying to put this in. I think, for me, the thing that I’ve been learning from working more and more deeply with bipoc women over the last few years is that like, belonging to me has become like, actually the North Star much more than almost anything else. And, you know, and it is, like, true belonging is transformative. And so I get to add a whole bunch of those things that I think we’ve been reaching for, in like more linear ways, but it’s got a really different feel to it. And I would love to hear what Cass and sky think about like the like, what does success mean in your mind’s eye? And is that even what we should be reaching for? Like, like, I don’t even know anymore? In some ways.
Cassandra Ferrara 39:39
Yeah, I’m really with you in questioning our ideas of success. And I, I guess I also want to weave in something that Rebecca was saying earlier of like, is it too much you know, there’s There’s so much that needs to be done on a systemic level like, like, if you could just figure out, you know how to have an equitable and accessible financial model in your community, then that would be amazing. If you could figure out how to legally hold title of land over time, in a succession of phases of your community, that will be amazing. If you could have a culture that knew how to be humble, to learn together to be responsive and adaptive to an ever changing uncertain world and like new how to digest conflict as learning and deepening, that would be amazing. There is so much for us to do and then we set out to do it, those of us with the privilege, the time the resources, the the friend who can join us, we set out to do that. And and then a lot of us are working full time jobs, on top of also tried to do all of that, and put in this and raise kids and and raise kids and compost and build soil and restore the waters and and build relationships with our neighbors. I mean, it’s too much in so many ways. And then we then I know I put on export potential, then we also need to be doing something culturally relevant that that isn’t just about us. And our in our little mostly white neighborhood. Like that’s not okay, that’s not enough. So it is too much. And and I think that there is a a humility that I know I’m reckoning with that is like, yeah, that’s like, how do we gather like what is enough? And because then I felt like in that too much. And as I’m then becoming part of the problem, I’m grasping and controlling and trying to get us there. And, you know, and doing this things that I don’t actually want to be doing. And, and so how do I then have have what we can do be enough and have the and then going back to the piece of what is a person’s motivation, like if your motivation is to control all of these interlocking variables, and create another utopian model for society. Good luck. It’s gonna be as pretty dark about setting yourself up for in some ways failure. But if you’re like, Okay, we’re going to do our best. And we’re going to try to actually heal our own nervous systems, enough that we can be a contribution to our own children, our neighbors, our community, the water like like, what is enough? And and how do we go about doing that in a way that is? It’s a learning path, and is like, this isn’t this whole thing like we’re trying to tackle issues that are that are multigenerational behind us? They’re going to take some time. And so what part of it can we help turn the dial in the great turning? That is that is actually not extractive from our own bodies, the land and our children like how can we do this in a way that is that is full of humble learning, that is then in solidarity with other movements.
Rebecca Mesritz 43:52
In the coming months, as I’m taking a little break from this podcast, I have a feeling you might be jonesing for more information, more insights, more tips on how to do this thing called Community. While you can definitely re listen to some of my past episodes, or you could check out communities magazine, a printed copy of the magazine will slip easily into your beach bag, and you can take it with you as you relax in the sun on your own summer vacation. If you don’t want to wait for the printed copy to come. You can go online right now and access a digital subscription which you can read on your phone or on your computer. You can check out hundreds of articles written by experts, and new and old communitarians. We’re counting their experience and their wisdom from their collaborative culture journey. For more information, visit Gen hyphen us.net/communities. The inside community podcast has been so many things for me. It has been a learning curve and a growth edge. It’s been a deep exploration. It’s been a A lot of fun. And it’s been a true labor of love. I’m so grateful to you for being along for this journey. I’m also super grateful to the foundation for intentional community, the show sponsor for really believing in my vision for this endeavor, and helping me to promote it, holding down a lot of the back end, and connecting me with amazing people to interview and talk to, so that we can provide the best content, the fic, and I both need the support of people like you to keep creating useful content like this, if you feel inspired by what you’ve heard, if you’ve enjoyed it, and if you just want to pitch in or have some extra ice cream money lying around this summer, I hope you’ll consider visiting icy.org/podcast To make a donation. It’ll help me continue doing this work. It’ll help the fic to keep sponsoring this project and other projects like this. Thank you so much for your generosity, and we hope you have a great summer.
Sky Blue 46:02
Well, I would just I’m thinking about one of the pieces that when the three of us talk recently, that we got into is this whole this whole not knowing, and this whole thing about, like being willing to be in that sort of, like, humbled place of like, we don’t really know, and I’ve been I’ve been I’ve been bouncing that one around in my head, because like, because they’re because of the extent to which I think, you know, all three of us are people who are looked to at times as experts. And and I was like, okay, you know, but if so if we’re if we’re like, but if we’re just saying like, well, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know, you know, there’s something that’s also a little disingenuous, and so I was trying to like, sort out, well, what is it? What’s the distinction here? And I was like, well, well, we do know a lot about what’s been done. Like that, that we know a ton about. And that, you know, maybe we are experts on and we can speak very much to what have intentional communities been doing, you know, what are the challenges? What are the successes? What are the pitfalls? What are the different models, like all these different things? What are all the stories, the anecdotes, the like different things that we can point to like, like, yes, we have lots, there’s so much that is known. But then it gets back to that question of like, well, what are we actually going for here? And, and is what’s been done, actually getting us where we are trying to go? And? And in that it’s like, well, no, like, have we affected a global revolution yet? Well, no, we haven’t. So on some level, like, how do we do that? We don’t know. You know, but, but I think that’s gets into what Cassandra is saying is like, well, you know, we, we take the pieces that we can, and I think part of it is that we just you just keep bringing as as deepen analysis as possible, like we keep bringing as Yana keeps pointing to that sort of that power analysis, you know, our understanding of privilege. And, you know, are the responsibilities that we have to as people with privilege or whatever extent we have privilege, leveraging that privilege for for others as well. You know, we keep bringing that perspective, we keep checking ourselves, we keep checking each other. And, and, and just keep asking these questions about, you know, what can we do? You know, and I think, I think asking them in ways that, that maybe we haven’t before, like, you know, like, are we you know, I mean, I think one of the things that that that I see so much is, you know, I think, you know, leftists love to create these lofty vision statements about the world that we’re we want to create, and it’s like, have we really thought about, like, what would it actually take to create that. And, and so just being in a more deep inquiry around that from, from these different perspectives of power and privilege, and then also, like, not martyring ourselves, as Cass was saying, like, it’s like, yeah, we have to, we have to take care of ourselves. And I think back to what you were saying, Rebecca is like, Yeah, this is just seen, it’s like, it’s just drudgery and martyrdom, and you know, that’s like, yeah, that’s not gonna work either. Like, there there is a way in which it has to be enjoyable. And I think that this is part of part of it is like, you get into it, and you start to be like, it is enjoyable, like, it is worth it. Like even all the hearts off, you get to that place. I mean, I think, you know, one of the things that I think I’ve thought about like with, particularly with race work around racism is like, you know, you start to you start to get comfortable, being uncomfortable and you start to get uncomfortable being comfortable. Like when you recognize that you’re in a comfortable position. You’re like, oh, wait a minute. Like, if I’m uncomfortable right now, that probably means it’s costing someone else something. And so what do I What do I do about that?
Yana Ludwig 50:01
Yeah, yeah, I realized, like, I think that in this conversation, we might be more appropriately talking to people who are already in the movement than folks who like, I don’t think that this is going to be the branding conversation that like, inspires a bunch of people to, like, get involved. But I think that this is like, you know, we’re people who take this stuff really seriously and are deep in and we want more people who are deep into be thinking about this stuff more strongly. And I, one of the things that Skye talked about in the conversation we’d had earlier, as we were sort of, do we even have a conversation here that’s worth recording was this idea that like, we’re, we’re sort of living in a time of late stage capitalism and climate change and rising fascism, and, and that’s really hard, like, like, everybody is having a really hard time right now, who has any kind of awareness, whether you’re in the communities movement, or not, and like how difficult it is to be able to, like, get something new off the ground, when like, you can barely pay your bills, and you don’t have health care, and all that kind of stuff. And that, you know, I think part of what I want to do with this conversation is just to like validate for people, like, if you’ve been like still putting on a front of like, I’m okay. Like, it’s really okay to not be okay, right now. And that. I think that that, that that’s one of the things that needs to happen in this moment, I don’t know where that leads us. But I know that it leads us into deeper authenticity and the potential for deeper belonging with each other. And that that is a really core human bead that has driven people to create community for centuries. And this is a really important moment for us to do that. So to lean into that in a really real way. I do think that that gets you to a better place and like, No, you’re not going to be like smiling all the time, and like super happy and, like, it’s not fun. But there’s really deep satisfaction and like dropping away all of that pretense that we’re all okay right now, and turning toward each other in that moment in our sort of like shared struggle and pain. I think that’s a really important. I think that is part of the answer. And I don’t know what it is like, I can tell you how to set up a membership structure, I can tell you how to not fuck up consensus completely. All of that stuff is the stuff that Skye is saying is like, we shouldn’t pretend that we don’t know like, we do know a lot. That is absolutely true. And one of the things that I’m increasingly knowing is that if we’re not acting as if we’re in uncharted territory, right now, we’re getting behind the times. And so I think it’s important so so this, like, my part of this interview is sort of a call to other people who are, who are starting to be looked at I mean, we’re sort of in that next generation of people who are starting to be looked at as leaders of this movement, and we can’t just get on our pedestals and pretend like, that is not what this moment needs, it needs something much more humble and much more turning toward each other as people who are on a journey, even if somebody is six steps behind me, we’re on the same journey. And like really feeling that sense of like, you know, fellowship, I think, you know, to go back to like, you know, like, what used to be fic is first word was fellowship, and there is something about that, like, We’re on a journey together. And, and it’s pretty epic. And it’s pretty hard right now,
Rebecca Mesritz 53:22
you know, something I like about where you started with this, that line of thought there, Jana was just kind of naming that this level of conversation about where the movement is going is, like, in my mind, it’s like masters level. This is, this is thesis work. Whereas I think, for this podcast, and for at least a portion of my listeners, a lot of it is kind of one on one level, like, Okay, what is governance? You know, that’s that’s the one that’s the, that’s the beginning step. And I love that this conversation is going to kind of cap this first season with the bigger picture and the slightly more advanced concepts. And, you know, you brought up the fic, you know, you know, we’re all connected to the fic. And we’ve talked about in this conversation, you know, the, like, the goals, and where’s this movement going? And you know, who’s defining these structures? And what Who are we as a movement? Do you feel that the fic is the sort of governing body of the communities movement? Do you feel that there’s a need for a greater, I don’t know, conference or consortium of some sort of the communities movement to come together and maybe put some, I don’t know, have some World Cafe kind of conversations and talk about these things and be a more united movement or Is it okay? That it’s a little, that it’s somewhat piecemeal, and that different people are doing different things in different places?
Sky Blue 55:08
I mean, again, there’s a degree to which it’s what are we going for? Is it? Is it okay? Yeah, sure. There’s there’s nothing wrong, necessarily. But what are we going for? And I think, I think one of the things that I both, you know, understand on a deep level and find frustrating is the insularity that that communities tend to get into, and the lack of, of mutual support and coordination amongst communities, not that that’s not existent, but it is just so much less than it than it could be. And, you know, I get in conversations occasionally with people, you know, where, where we start to identify, like, what are kind of some of the kinds of things that are possible, either, because we’ve seen small examples of them, or just because we can dream into it. So like, I mean, things like, you know, coordinated fundraising amongst the movement in order to be able to start more communities and support more communities, you know, better documentation of what communities are doing and sharing amongst each other so that communities aren’t just struggling on their owns with things that lots of other communities are struggling with, as well. You know, things like mutual insurance programs, you know, coordinated efforts to change policy to make it better, easier for communities to start something we’ve talked about in the past, like a national scale, community land trust, that could actually hold land for, for communities in a more secure kind of way. You know, there’s just all sorts of different sorts of things that if we were able to come together and be more coordinated as a movement, like, the kinds of things that are possible are our, you know, beyond what we, we can, we can see right now. So, you know, that’s where I would like to go, I don’t know that fic is necessarily like the body to be the coordinating or governing body for some hosting like that. Maybe it could be or maybe some a whole other thing is needed. And maybe something that is that kind of defines, like, kind of, as we’ve been talking about, maybe like maybe it actually isn’t the whole movement, as we have sort of understood it, maybe there is more of a subset of movement that is better positioned to come together for that sort of thing. And some something new needs to be created. I don’t know, you know, but this is definitely a place where I’m like, I can see the potential there. But I don’t know, I don’t know how to actually get there.
Cassandra Ferrara 57:25
The three of us have had some conversations, for sure, over the years about what is the appropriate role of the fic in the movement? And do we play more of a neutral role and be responsive to you know, what, what other folks might just want in terms of enlisting service or, you know, just something that’s less what we called prescriptive. And, and, you know, over the years, that the three of us we’re, we’re together, either, you know, with with, with roles in the organization, we came to we over and over again came to that we needed to provide some leadership with regard to the the work of the anti oppression work that we saw in the in the revealing of the unexamined white supremacy culture that was inside of the movement, and that we weren’t ethically willing to be involved and not discuss that, and not have that be something that we were as stewards that we felt that that needed to be brought to the surface. And so and so in, into during our time of working together, some I think important pieces did come into being through that to that focus. And, and it leads me to this feeling that, that, that I wish that intentional communities were more, had a had more eldership had more sense. It’s an interesting word, but it comes to me supervision, for lack of a better word. Sky came in and lived in our community for four months, and did their deep under the hood experience. And, and it was the it was, we’re, for years. We’re going to live into what Skye saw when they looked under the hood of land. Well, and, and, and how do we normalize the the need for wisdom counsel for elders for people who you know, and who are we Feeling to decompose the power structure. So it’s less about, oh, we’re answering to people in a hierarchical way. But we’re actually being held by, by, by Elder wisdom that then is like supporting us, rather than telling us what to do. And, and so I think that’s part of the, that’s part of the, the high the cultural change work of, of seeing, supervision is not something that is on top of you telling you what to do, but is actually like, looking deeply with you at the undercurrent issues. And, and being a resource, as you know, in in the growth process that your communities is
Yana Ludwig 1:00:51
interesting, I find myself longing for like, three sort of different points along those lines. I mean, one of them is the sort of like, you know, elderhood, and the like deep wisdom. One of it though, you know, I there was this thing that went around social media awhile ago of like, if you don’t have a mentor who’s under 30, you’re getting behind, and there is something to me about, like turning to young people as well who have different stakes in what’s happening in the world right now. I mean, I’m, no, I’m 52, I’m going to be dead at the point that some of this stuff plays out, and my kids aren’t going to be. And that colors things really differently. Like we saw on the court system that like, we started seeing climate change, be a reasonable defense in the legal system, when judges started being old enough that they were going to live with the impact of it. And I think that there is something about, you know, that so there’s to me, there’s like the elderhood, and then there’s the youth. But there’s also this really sticky and I think controversial thing that I want to say is that I have often wished that we had some sort of a, like a professional ethics board within the communities movement, because there are absolutely shitty things that have been done in, you know, when somebody has been in the consulting and training role that has done deep damage to communities, and there is nowhere to take that. And that is a little bit of a hierarchy. And it is a little bit of like, I do wish that there was some places where you could take something where there would be some serious accountability. And we don’t have that, I mean, we’re very much in like what, you know, in my cultural work, I would call the like counterculture column that is that doesn’t like accountability and doesn’t like hierarchy, and, you know, is will martyr ourselves and all that kind of stuff. And so one of the cultural shifts, I find myself deeply longing sometimes for something that would be like there is no, there’s no place where the buck stops right in the movement. And that has, I think, allowed abuses to sometimes proliferate in the movement in a way that I, I don’t know what to do with. And I’ve been on cleanup mode enough times at this point that I wish for something with a little bit of authority. And I don’t think that that’s necessarily the fic. You know, so you know, in terms of like, is fic, like a governing body, like we’re not we’re a network, or a networking organization. And there are things missing because fic is kind of the most visible player, and we’re a network and don’t really have any authority in the movement. And so, and I don’t know what that adds up to. But I do find myself sort of longing for those sorts of three really different pieces that I think together would really add up to deep wisdom and deeper potential for like, real systemic change in the movement. Yeah,
Sky Blue 1:03:51
yeah, kind of weaving both, both of what you both said together. I mean, the, one of the things that that I know, from my experience, particularly as executive director, and different times is, is, is is people reaching out to the fic when when bad stuff is happening at a community, like they’ve experienced bad stuff, and sometimes it’s, it’s sexual abuse or misconduct. Sometimes it’s power stuff, like, sometimes it’s financial manipulation, but like, you know, people will reach out to us and say, like, hey, there’s bad things happening at this at this community. And, you know, ultimately, the only thing that we can do is we can take their listing in the directory down. Like, that’s it, like the fic has no authority beyond that. But it is interesting to see how groups you know how people do reach out to us because because the fic is the only place to go like there’s no there’s no one else that even approaches that that sense of like an authority or governing body or something that that could do something about when bad shit happens in communities and it happens. And, and it is definitely something that that’s kept me up at night in terms of this movement and like, we know bad shit is happening in communities out there. And and there’s not a whole lot we can do about that. And and that doesn’t feel that doesn’t feel right.
Rebecca Mesritz 1:05:23
I mean, what would you know what would a governing body even look like? You know what would like? This is one of the questions that I was thinking to kind of like, would be more towards the end of this. But you know, how do we incentivize? How do you incentivize better leadership? I mean, obviously, there’s people. And Cassandra kind of touched on this earlier who have the privilege of this, the bandwidth and the space to give to give more to this movement. But for most people, I mean, I think most people that I meet, like, just living in community is, is big, it’s a lot, it’s a huge amount of time and energy. Not to mention having jobs and families on top of that. So you know, how do we start to, you know, what would that even look like? I guess, is my question.
Yana Ludwig 1:06:18
That is the $10 million question that I do not have an answer to. But I think it would be worth a conversation at some point. And I don’t you know, and I don’t even know who it who convenes that conversation, who decides who gets invited into that conversation? I mean, those are all big, important questions. And I don’t really know what that would look like. But I do think it’s interesting that it’s, it’s a need that I feel like has cropped up like over the I mean, I’ve been involved with FASD. Now for 21 years, and I feel like this pops up every once in a while it sort of rises and then goes away, and then rises and goes away. And at some point, it’s going to rise up, and it’s going to be the thing that we actually ought to be picking up. But I don’t have a picture for what that would look like, I think that would be something we’d have to create, you know, as, as a movement. And in order to do that, I think we’d have to see ourselves as a movement, and I don’t know that we do.
Sky Blue 1:07:18
Yeah, I think it’s spotty, I think, I think there are elements, there are pockets, there are people who do see it as a movement or see the the potential of it as a movement, and then there’s lots that that don’t necessarily, but I think, you know, seeing ourselves as a movement in a in a more, you know, in a broader way, or like more more people working in unity, seeing themselves as part of the movement is kind of a prerequisite for it actually being a movement. I think the question of governing body is, you know, it’s a little, you know, I think, I think where we start is kind of along the lines of of what I was talking about before, but like, what are actual practical, beneficial things that communities could do together? And I think I think finding some things like that, to kind of help work though that ability to really come together as a community of communities and and as a movement. And just the needs for organizing around larger, coordinated efforts like that. I think that will that will help guide us towards what would what would the evolution of that be, but I’m very much in favor of like, you know, let’s start start practically start. Start with, you know, what makes sense, given what’s actually happening, as opposed to looking too far into the future and imagining what, you know, something, something might look like, I think communities get ahead of themselves a lot, I think, and a lot of intentional communities, sort of like, kind of tried to try to prefigure what they should be doing too much as opposed to just kind of do what they’re doing, be in it in the moment and evolve over time. And again, that kind of gets into that, like one of the key things I see. issues I see communities facing is like, they set up a bunch of structures, and then it becomes rigid, and they don’t know how to change, they don’t know how to adapt with with changing circumstances over time. And so I think, again, as a movement, that’s what we need to be able to do too. And so I think part of that is just, you know, where do we start? Where are some of the places we can, we can start? And, you know, again, lots of ideas, but sort of there’s sort of the question of how there’s still that question of how
Rebecca Mesritz 1:09:33
can I just say right now that this is a movement and just name it that this is a movement like like we don’t need to wait for someone else to decide if this is a movement like I here by power fascinated me by myself as a podcaster witnessed by you three community leaders name this communities as a movement you know, there seems like it is like it’s a thing that’s happening. It’s it’s, it might not be as cohesive as we might want. But for me, my mind just goes to Okay, well, how do we go? He’s like, That’s the next step. Do we need a conference? Do we need a symposium time that we come together and spend three or four days on a piece of land somewhere and ask and start answering some of these questions and generate the manifesto and create a work order. And like, I, my brain is very kind of, here’s the problem, how do we solve it? Like, let’s move into that? You know, and I don’t know, maybe that’s lofty. And hopefully, I’m not like raising my hand too much for what I actually have the bandwidth to do. But I mean, I feel like it’s right. It’s right here, you know, that there are people across the country who are very interested in, in these things, even the people who are coming to this, you know, listening to this podcast is complete, novices, and maybe this is the first time they’re even thinking about some of these issues. But most people who are thinking about community, as a lifestyle, as a, as a change are thinking about it, because on some level, they’re tuned to exactly these, these issues. I don’t meet too many people who are interested in community, because it’s cute, or like, because it’s, you know, like, they might be interested in the food. But you know, there’s usually something a little bit deeper there in the connection space that people are striving for. So
Yana Ludwig 1:11:38
I think the challenging part is like, I think that we’re a movement, in the sense of we’re a phenomenon that is happening, and that there are similar things happening in a lot of places, I don’t think we’re a movement in terms of being an organized entity that is leveraging power in the world. And that’s what’s missing. Like, it’s not that there isn’t a describable thing going on. But it’s like, how do we actually make change deliberately, where we are putting our shoulders into the same direction with that, and I think that’s, I think that fic has been, you know, skirting that line for a long time of like, do we, you know, it’s that thing of like, are you descriptive, or prescriptive? And, you know, are you advocating? Or are you just, you know, passively responding to requests. And those are two really different things. And, like we don’t, most people in the communities movement, don’t think like, organizers don’t think like political organizers. And I think that’s, that’s like the difference. And so I go back and forth between whether I think this is a movement or not, I think it depends on which one of those definitions you’re looking at. And we’re absolutely a movement. On the one level, I think the world would benefit immensely from us being a movement on the other level. And that’s the part that I don’t, I don’t know that we have the will and the resources and the bandwidth to actually, you know, lean into that second definition of it.
Cassandra Ferrara 1:13:06
And also, like you said earlier, Jana, because we’re walking contradictions, if we would be a movement that named that, that that by necessity, otherwise, we would be out, like you could poke so many holes in in it. And so it’s like, we’d have to say, Yeah, we know that we have a lot of work to do. Yeah, we know, that we’re, yeah. Humble to it. And we’re committed to what kind of change and and in that integrated, like Skye was saying earlier, this isn’t by like, intentional communities necessarily integrating and, and, you know, to your question, Rebecca, like, Should we just take on one part of it, I think our power and in some ways our vulnerability is in that, that, that wholeness of it, that that bringing on the development of whole people, in whole systems, in sight of cultural systems and ecological systems like a lot. So to be able to name that, that that putting your life you’re sometimes I used to think of us as lifestyle activists, you know, like, like, I’m just bringing them out my kids, my whole my, all my finances, my whole life, my pattern, everything is is in activism, of building a new way of cooperatives stewardship, and, and but it’s, it’s so, so much and so how do we name that and and what would be the coherence like, would you have people who are in market rate cohousing like with income sharing communities saying that they’re in the same movement. So then like when we then water down like a will we share things? And that’s what we do? Or like, what is the movement? Are we all committed to a degree of dismantling classism? Is that part of our movement? Are we all committed to dismantling private property ownership? Are we in sharing Earth and in in our places? Like, what are we all committed to? And so, so that I think it’s it’s like, it’s a conundrum. And I like Jana use that we’re a phenomenon. And, and, and how how, and I respect where you’re coming from Rebecca to I might, there’s been so many times I’m like, It’s a movement, it’s a movement, and I’m like, but is it? And and you certainly can’t compare it to black lives matter, you know, and, or some of the movement towards climate justice. You know, it’s like, movements.
Yana Ludwig 1:16:19
It’s like, we’re a container that a bunch of those movements are intersecting with. And there’s a few balls from each one of those movements in our container. Yeah. I don’t know what that I don’t know what you call
Rebecca Mesritz 1:16:29
that, though. I mean, I don’t know. I think there’s a piece of it for me and all these conversations that I’ve had over the last few months that sees that. You know, everyone, it’s, it’s all a spectrum. It’s not, you’re either in or you’re out for me. It’s not, you’re either in or you’re out. I think the the benefit, the joy, the excitement for me of the communities movement, which I do believe is actually a movement is that and how the fic holds it to like kind of toot their horn a little bit, is that they’ve really make space for the spectrum. And that not everybody can jump in at an egalitarian, like, let’s give up property ownership level. Like that’s actually masters level work that you don’t get to, in year one or two, or maybe even in this lifetime. That’s actually an evolution. I don’t want to use the word evolution, but it’s actually a transformation of consciousness that needs to happen in order for people to operate at that level. And not everybody’s there, quite frankly. But can we as the container for this movement, make space for people to enter at the cohousing level, and just start working on how to be nicer to people how to live better? How to resolve conflict, how to recycle for crying out loud? You know, is there space for that as well as on the other end people who are leading thought leading? Healing, really, cultural and social healing? I hope so.
Sky Blue 1:18:21
I mean, you know, on some level, it gets back to that question i What, what are intentional communities without and you know, there is a degree to which like, of course, we are creating them and living in them, because they’re, they’re good places for us like there is there is absolutely, totally appropriately a selfish element of like, this is how I want to live, like, I think this is better for me, this is going to be a happier, healthier, more satisfying existence for me. And then I also want to have that be available for other people as well. And I want to have that be a model that can help impact society. And one of the things that I that I often come back to is back in the 1940s, when people were getting together and creating the first things that people that they called intentional communities. One of the people back then wrote in an article that part of what they were about as as intentional communities, and what they meant by that was, was they were coming together in their common commitment to help build the foundations for a more humane and equitable global society. Like this is the Nike 1940s. Like, that’s where that’s what intentional community was about. So, you know, what does that mean? How do we get there? You know, and I think this is a place then where like, Yeah, I think there’s going to have to be a variety of different strategies, and we can’t it doesn’t, we don’t, we don’t necessarily need to all be all together in everything all the time. I think this is one of the these sort of like ways in which we go, we sort of have some misinterpretations of some some stuff around inclusion in the that sort of thing that we sometimes get into. But one of the things that I think, you know, I mean, like, for example, like with policies, if somebody reached out to me recently, it’s like, Hey, is fic working on policy stuff. And I was like, well, we’ve we’ve sort of tried to track it in the past, but not really, in part because it’s mostly happening on state and local levels. And we’re a national organization, but then there’s also the fact that like, you know, what a community that is trying to be an eco village is going to want on a policy level is different from the kinds of policy things that would make cohousing community easier, as opposed to you know, this, that and the other. So it’s a little hard for us to all figure out how to, you know how to bring them all together. But maybe they don’t have to, you know, and I think that’s a place where, you know, and again, other sort of ways that I’ve thought about is like, there’s the fic, which is very big 10 umbrella, like trying to be as inclusive as possible. And then my background at Twin Oaks and Twin Oaks being part of a the organization called the Federation of egalitarian communities, which historically has been a very small like, generally not more than a dozen or so communities that are committed more to income sharing, and participatory governance and you know, some very, very, sort of more more pushed things that are pushing the edge a little bit more. And, you know, and that’s where, like, they have created a mutual insurance program that acts as a loan fund, and they are able to do sort of coordinated outreach and different sort of things, there is a bunch of stuff possible, that has been possible that that network has done, of real practical benefit to the communities in those networks. And so I’ve often thought, you know, and this is where Rebecca I’m totally with you, like, there’s, there’s, I’ve totally feel like there’s a manifesto to be written here of something that is maybe, or maybe a number of different things that are somewhere between what the fic is doing and what the FEC has, has been of, you know, can we find, you know, some maybe not the whole big tent, but some smaller tents, where communities who are aligned around certain things can come together and find actual practical benefit in that so that, you know, part of the pitfall is like, like, Oh, it’s another, it’s another monthly meeting and another email list to be on, you know, but like, can we actually like have it be something that is that is a real benefit, that comes out of alignment around around vision and values. That is, again, not as big tenders as fic has tried to be but also not as small tenders FEC has tried to be.
Yana Ludwig 1:22:25
Good, interesting. So I would I hear you say that what I go to is, you know, as I’ve gotten deeper into anti racism work, one of the things that is a refrain that I’ve heard a lot is that, and also in the disability, justice world, this idea that, like if you lean into the kinds of policies in the world that would serve the most vulnerable and the most radically in need people, everybody else is going to benefit from that as well. And so do you do, and that’s different, I think, than what you just described. I mean, I think that would mean, you advocate for policies that radical eco villages and income sharing groups are like, that would make their lives easy and their community building efforts easy. And then, you know, the cohousing world is gonna get pulled along with that, and it’s gonna get easier for them as well, but focusing on like what cohousing needs, is not going to actually get us significant world improvement, I think. And so so I just wonder, like, I think that would be one of the really interesting debates for us to get into at some point is like, which it’s a theory of change. Question. I think, like, you know, are you leaning into what is what’s going to be like the most deeply radically beneficial to the world, and it’s also going to be led then by those communities who have had the biggest struggle and the largest amount of barriers to doing the kind of community that they want to have? Or do you try to keep it Big Ten’s enough that like the cohousing people are comfortable with what’s happening in the room? And I think that’s a really big question. And they’re two really different tactics. And so if we were going to look at something like legal reform stuff, I think that’s kind of the first question is who’s thinking and needs are leading that process? And are like, the thing that we go back to, like, who whose needs are the north star in the conversation? And, and I think that’s, that’s, and you know, and fac has had that dance over the years. I mean, I feel like we’ve danced and we’ve moved slowly toward, we’re gonna start advocating and start trying to be a thought leader, rather than just a sort of passive responder, which I think is what we were for a very long time, the first decade that I was involved with ICS. That was basically what we were doing, and then that slowly started to shift over time. So I would love to have and that’s a whole other conversation that we’re not going to have right now. But I would love to have that conversation at some point about like, so what’s what’s the center of gravity in terms of how we want to think about things like reform?
Cassandra Ferrara 1:24:58
Okay, I’m really liking where this is going. So, and in this piece that you set her back about a spectrum, and then with what Jana, you know, is saying about like, well, let’s put those, those folks whose knees have been the most systemically marginalized, like at the front of that spectrum of reform and policy change. And then it actually gives some of the other communities who are like, we, we were doing a good thing over here, but we actually don’t know how to serve that movement. If we they saw themselves as part of a transitional ecosystem that was all moving together, but like the leadership was in the equity building space, then then that would allow not just the, you know, the, the, the more conventional communities to follow, but actually the be part of something to feel like, okay, yeah, I’m aligned with that, even if my community doesn’t express those values as radically, they might be able to contribute, you know, not only their own learning and attention, but also resources to, to the other end of that spectrum. And, and so I, I’m, I and I, so I’m liking this idea, because then, like, you also were belonging to something, it’s not like, Oh, you’re not radical enough. Because you’re not sharing enough, you know, breaking down the system enough, or, you know, whatever. Like, you’re, you’re, you’re just there’s another spec part of the spectrum. And that’s okay, that’s where you’re at, maybe you live in that community, and then you’re out there doing, like, incredible legal reform work over there. Or you’re, you know, there’s other ways of, of, that we constantly and our activism, besides where we live. So, um, and so I think that that’s in that, and that connects us to other movements, which is another thing we’ve been struggling to cohere with, or, you know, being and that is that there’s a lot of incredible work that’s being done in this, quote, movement that isn’t just being done in communities of place, and how do we partner with those movements as well? Like, the new economy coalition, and, you know, yeah.
Rebecca Mesritz 1:27:33
I would love to put, like a nice bow on this whole thing, but I don’t I don’t know that that’s even possible. I guess I just like to ask each of you sort of enclosing, you know, as we talk about the state of the communities movement, just for you, you know, for you for your activism. Where do you feel like your next steps are, you know, where do you feel like, your next next move is to to support this movement, and hopefully, my listeners, our listeners, can take some inspiration. From your, your guidance?
Yana Ludwig 1:28:22
Well, my answer is easy and very concrete, which is I have a new book coming out this fall on starting communities, which has has little hints and threads of some of the stuff that we’ve been talking about, but isn’t really the sort of masterclass thing, if we’re thinking of this conversation is that so, you know, I, despite all of the challenges, I think the world benefits from having more and more communities forming out there and being wherever we are in the struggles that we’ve been talking about. And so I, what I want to do is support people who want community, making fewer mistakes on the way and getting a more satisfying and more like deeply inclusive sense of belonging in those communities. So that’s I have my writers hat on again, and soon there will be something coming out as a result of
Cassandra Ferrara 1:29:11
that. Definitely find me in the land justice movement. I am currently co founding an organization a nonprofit organization called the Center for Ethical land transition. And we’re we’re doing solidarity and justice work to help create other pathways from land to transition into the hands of those who have been systemically dispossessed. And so it’s healing work. It’s cultural and social change work. And it’s hopefully will help influence of what we’ll be doing a training program for real estate agents as well who want to be involved in in that in reparative land transitions. And so that’s, that’s got a lot of my attention. I’m really hoping that that serves the larger, intentional communities movement in terms of the edge work that we’re doing around what entities are. And these, these, these movements are being led by Native communities, bipoc groups, farmworkers, you know, like people that that that are being supported right now in creating culturally appropriate legal entities to hold title to land, and to cooperatively self govern. And I am hoping that we in that spectrum, that you know, that I could help thread together some of the learnings for intentional communities and retreat centers and other folks who are stewarding land, about how to how to think about how, how we’re doing that, in a way that is increasing our accountability, and our responsibility to helping heal history. So that’s, that’s where you’re where you’ll find me.
Sky Blue 1:31:29
I think the, you know, the big inquiry that I’ve I’ve been in is, comes from seeing the intentional communities movement over the last 80 years as this iterative process of developing new models to respond to the problems of the world. So the the communities that were being founded in the 40s and 50s, when intentional community was first thing in the problems that they were responding to then, and the models that resulted from that are different from them, the kinds of communities that were being created in the 60s and 70s, in the midst of the Vietnam War and cultural revolution and everything that was happening, then, and then the community, those kinds of communities are very different than again, from the kinds of communities in the 90s and into the 2000s that were being formed when eco villages started being on the scene and cohousing and these sorts of things and the ways that they were responding to the problems that of those of those times. And so So what is what is this moment calling for, from intentional communities? Is is sort of the big question, and what are the ways in which the problems that we’re seeing now, the models, as we understand them, of intentional communities haven’t really been designed, they weren’t designed to deal with the problems that we’re facing now. Particularly this kind of trifecta that we’ve been talking about about of capitalism, climate change and trauma. And so how do we do that? How do we how do how do we update our designs for intentional community? And, and I think, you know, that both and I think particularly that, like being over the barrel of capitalism, and the just increasingly scarce resources that we have to try and work with, along with the increasing prevalence of, of trauma in a whole variety of different forms. And so how do we contend with all of that? How do we how do we design for this, what seems like an impossible set of problems to work with, and so for me, you know, trying to start a new community to try to, you know, try out experiment with some some of these ideas about what, what the next iteration of intentional community might look like. Also doing consulting work with them, which I’m also starting to do, in partnership with dear friend and colleague, Avi Cooley, we’re working, starting to work under the name, the next big step. And then again, you know, is continuing to be on the board of the fic and do work there. And, you know, and just kind of weave it all together, you know, and keep doing this kind of research work and being in conversation with people around the movement and instigating conversations, because on some level, you know, all the different things that we’ve been talking about, whether it’s within your own community and the movement as a whole, like, it’s so much about just it’s the conversation, like we just keep keep having the conversation keep keeps saying what’s there, keep saying, saying what we’re saying and, and, you know, let, you know, not think we know what the solutions are, but let them emerge through our conversations with each other.
Rebecca Mesritz 1:34:43
Well, I am so so grateful to each of you. Sky Blue, Cassandra Ferreira, Jana Ludwig. It’s been a real pleasure, not just for this conversation, but for all of the conversations I know that you’ve been having over the years. There’s that have been sort of, kind of I just feel that energy of this conversations in the background like sort of Holding, holding a frame. And I’m, I’m really grateful to you for all of that work. And I’m hoping that all of my listeners feel inspired to contribute to this conversation moving forward and to developing this movement, this, whatever this thing might be as we move forward into the future. So thank you, each of you very much. Thank you so much for coming along on this first season of the inside community podcast. I hope this final episode with Jana Ludwig, sky blue and Cassandra Ferreira has touched you and inspired you to think about what you want to grow into as a communitarian. I’m gonna have links for their work in the show notes, as well as a coupon code for the bookstore at the fic. And you can check out Jana has books that she’s already put out, as well as her new one that she has coming out soon. You know, it’s been a real pleasure to craft this season for you and I look forward to coming back next season with more insights and useful nuggets of information about collaborative culture, and intentional community. During the break, you can continue to find me online at Facebook and Instagram, at inside community podcast. And of course, all of our shows are going to be available through ic.org/podcast and wherever you listen to podcasts, so please continue to rate and review and share with friends and keep this buzz going about communities and the communities movement. Thanks again for being a part of this with me and have a wonderful safe, happy summer.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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State of the Communities Movement with Yana, Sky and Cassandra
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About the Show
The Inside Community Podcast brings folks along for an inside look at all of the beautiful and messy realities of creating and sustaining a community. We provide useful and inspiring content to support people on their quest for resilience, sustainability, and connection.
Meet Your Host
Inside Community Podcast host Rebecca Mesritz is a community builder living in Williams, Oregon. In 2011, Rebecca co-founded the Emerald Village (EVO) in North County San Diego, California. During her ten years with EVO, she supported and led numerous programs and initiatives including implementation and training of the community in Sociocracy, establishment of the Animal Husbandry program, leadership of the Land Circle, hosting numerous internal and external community events, and participation in the Human Relations Circle which holds the relational, spiritual and emotional container for their work.
In June of 2021, with the blessing of EVO, Rebecca and 3 other co-founders relocated to begin a new, mission- driven community and learning center housed on 160 acres of forest and farmland. Rebecca is passionate about communal living and sees intentional community as a tool for both personal and cultural transformation. In addition to her work in this field, she also holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from San Diego State University and creates functional, public, and interactive art in metal, wood, and pretty much any other material she can get her hands on. She is a mother, a wife, an educator, a nurturer of gardens, an epicurean lover of sustainable wholesome food, and a cultivator of compassion and beauty.
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